Martin Collins, focusing on the danger of pride of intellect and knowledge, affirms that knowledge of the truth is essential, but it must be God's knowledge, and not a syncretistic mixture of worldly philosophy or mystical Gnostic admixtures. Political correctness, a modern application of Gnosticism, can usher in some unacceptable consequences, such as occurred with the prideful 'tolerance' of incest as practiced in the Corinthian congregation. Like leavening, toleration of one offense would lead to toleration of other offenses. Progressives in American politics shamelessly call evil good and good evil, murdering fetuses in the name of 'women's rights and practicing sodomy in the name of marriage 'equality.' All of these progressive insights emanate from Satan, who has 'transformed' himself as an angel of light. Similarly, ditchism in religion (veering from one extreme or the other, such as overly strict or overly lenient) leads to unpleasant imbalances. Relying "solely" on human intellect is one such ditch when it is isolated from the heart and from practice. Proper knowledge must always be joined to the will of God. A person who is puffed up parades his knowledge either by exhibiting impatience, intolerance, or an obsequious false modesty, marginalizing what they consider to be the weak or uneducated. Some prideful people, caught up in their wealth of knowledge, are rendered totally useless in serving others. Conversely, the love of Christ surpasses all knowledge, putting us into proper humble and lowly perspective; to know and love God is to understand Him. Knowledge of God creates love for God as well as perfecting our relationships with others. The happiest people in the church are those who know His teachings and practice them 24 hours a day, growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord, actively practicing love as motivated by God's Holy Spirit, instilling in us the mind of Christ.
Most of the professing Christian world believes that it is the duty of believers to "win people for Christ," a phrase that has been drawn from the apostle Paul's words in II Corinthians 9:19-22. David Grabbe argues that, contrary to majority opinion, this passage proclaims nothing of the sort if seen in the context of the whole counsel of God, particularly that of God's prerogative to call people to Him.
John Ritenbaugh, acknowledging that the world's food supply has been increasingly contaminated by genetic modification, maintains that any attempt to seek a physical solution is impossible. Consequently, no one should ever permit himself to be in the position of condescending to others who are unable to purchase safe, organic foods. The Biblical proscriptions on food only apply to unclean 'foods' or clean foods offered to idols. The concern on the food issues should always be about protecting the conscience of the other person, especially the one with a weak conscience. The doubtful things do not concern unclean 'foods,' but clean foods offered to idols. What men are doing to our foods (i.e. GMO processed) does not cause a quick death. God provides protection if we trust Him to cleanse our foods.
Charles Whittaker, focusing upon the promises of peace in John 14, suggests that the command to seek peace is intricately connected with the promises of God's Holy Spirit. In the greater church of God, amidst schisms of doctrine, personality conflicts, and self-aggrandizement, the peace of God seems to be dwindling away. As individuals settle down to their own designer religions, a spirit of abandonment seems to replace fellowship and community. The spirit of abandonment is accompanied by a spirit of lack of direction, depicted by shell-shocked, aimless, tubercular hobos, unable to withstand the fiery darts of Satan. The third component describing the demise of the greater church of God is a spirit of competition or exclusivity, labeling all other groups as heretics. Ministers representing this third component have allowed self-aggrandizement to poison their flocks against fellowship with other isolated groups in the greater church of God. In the shrinking numbers (or sifting) we have seen in the greater church of God, we realize that the "cuts" that have occurred in the church have been supervised by Almighty God, as Gideon's army had experienced a series of draw-downs under God's direction. God, not church leaders, determines who will be selected for the upcoming spiritual battles. Those who are strong and mature have the obligation to bear the shortcomings of the weak, loving them, accepting and respecting them, attempting to edify them, not calling them names or disparaging them. We have an obligation to protect the conscience of a weak brother, demonstrating the "He's not heavy; he's my brother" agape love.
Richard Ritenbaugh maintains that interpersonal and family relationships in Corinth could be characterized as highly dysfunctional. God's way regarding marital and family relationships was so drastically different from the Greek and Roman philosophical approaches that Paul had to start from scratch to build a godly family structure. He demands that the Corinthians separate themselves from the world regarding bitter and contentious disputes among brethren. Responding to the 'all things are lawful for me' philosophy, he maintains that not all things are helpful, beneficial, or edifying. As for 'food for the stomach and the stomach for food,' Paul reprimands the sexual immorality rampant in Corinth, acts which defile the physical body, the spiritual temple of God. Rebutting ascetic philosophers, he maintains that sex is good and proper within marriage. Reminding us to stay sensitive to conscience, he suggests we become other-centered, doing everything to the glory of God.
Most Christians believe that the clean and unclean laws were "done away" at the crucifixion. But is that the case? John Reid looks into the most troublesome New Testament scriptures on the subject.
Richard Ritenbaugh reflects that, over a period of time, we can become an aficionado, learning to evaluate works of art, distinguishing the works of one artist from another, or perhaps a mediocre from a quality work. Likewise, our spiritual works (as evidenced in the systematic chronological appraisal of the works of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 - including the Ephesus- the "crusty old soldiers" who left their first love, Smyrna - "sheep to the slaughter"-suffering continual tribulation but conquering in the process, Pergamos, "Spiritual Descendants of Lot" - or cultural compromisers, Thyatira- idolatrous worldly Christians "Married to the enemy," Sardis "Dead and Deader," living on past reputation, Philadelphia, the weak but faithful " Little engine that could" , and the self-centered "Good for nothing idle rich" ) also have come under close meticulous scrutiny or appraisal by Almighty God. Contrary to Protestant understanding, our works emphatically do count - showing or demonstrating (not just telling) that we will be obedient.
Three of the seven churches of Revelation 2 receive warnings from Christ to beware Nicolaitanism. What is it? Richard Ritenbaugh shows how Nicolaitanism—a form of Gnosticism—still plagues the church today.
Christ severely criticizes the church of Pergamos for its problems with the doctrine of Baalam and idolatry. Nevertheless, to those who overcome these sins, He will grant eternal life!
God does not just want us not to sin, He also wants us not even to appear to be doing evil. John Reid shows how Christians must guard their thoughts, words and deeds at all times.
John Ritenbaugh, admonishing that we learn righteous judgment, reiterates that not everything in God's purpose (regarding law, sin, or holiness) has the same value or level of priority. Christ repeatedly emphasizes that those internal weightier matters of the law (mercy, justice, and faith) which change the heart and lead to eternal life take precedence over external ceremonial or ritualistic concerns (such as circumcision, baptism, etc.)which don't change the heart. Salvation is not something that we can attain for ourselves, but is something done to us (2 Corinthians 5:17), and if we yield to God's will, growing in grace, staying attached to the vine (John 15:1-5), we become a new creation.
John Ritenbaugh insists that the major issue in the Acts 15 decision was not doing away with God's law, but seeking a theological solution to the problem of circumcision and the Pharisaical misconception that it was a recipe for salvation. Within the context of this decision, both Paul and the Gentile converts faithfully continued to keep God's laws. In our servant relationship with God, keeping His laws is what is expected of us and does not put God in our debt or service nor does it earn our salvation. The Pharisaical approach of separating from fellowship in order to perfectly keep the law (failing to realize that defilement comes from within the heart) ironically violates the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23)
Moderns sneer at the Bible's food laws, but God gave them for man's good. This study shows they are still in effect for us today!
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon those factors that led ancient Israel into apostasy (Deuteronomy 29:18-21) drawing some poignant parallels to the current deplorable situation in the pernicious doctrinal changes of the Worldwide Church of God. Like a frog incrementally boiling to death, many members of our former fellowship have gradually adjusted their consciences to practice abominations that formerly they would have abhorred. "Missing the mark" or "going out of the way" constitutes additional definitions of sin, indicating that law keeping alone doesn't equate to righteousness. Lawful behavior with a wrong attitude, motivated by pride, displaying lack of sensitivity to others or lack of wisdom, also constitutes sin. (I Corinthians 8:12). Conscience must be exercised and developed (Hebrews 5:13-14) by doing things the way God would.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the standards one lives by are not installed at birth, but absorbed through culture and education. Conscience, defined as "man's moral intuition which passes judgment on his own moral state," when applied to the Bible becomes "the response of man's moral awareness to divine revelation concerning himself." A conscience can only function according to what it knows, and will automatically adjust in the direction in which it is exercised (conscience follows conduct). It can even become inured to what it once abhorred (Ephesians 4:19). The primary feature of the New Covenant involves a change in heart from stony to pliable (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Hebrews 8:10; 10:16), reeducating the conscience to be sensitive and submissive to God and His standards (Isaiah 55:8-9; Ephesians 4:23).
John Ritenbaugh shows that the Days of Unleavened Bread have both a negative and positive aspect. It is not enough to get rid of something negative (get rid of the leavening of sin); if we don't do something positive (eat unleavened bread or do righteousness), we leave ourselves in an extremely vulnerable position (Luke 11:24-28). Nature absolutely abhors a vacuum. We cannot make Christianity work by emphasizing what we can't do. We can't stand still. The best way to avoid or conquer evil is to do righteousness or bear fruit (John 15:16; James 4:17), serving God and mankind. Sins of omission are every bit as devastating as sins of commission. God's emphasis is always on action. The accent is on doing rather than not doing, taking our ordinary day-to-day responsibilities and making them a sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1).
In this message, John Ritenbaugh expounds upon the symbolism and types of Exodus 12:22, 'None of you shall go out of the door of your house until the morning.' The door serves as a metonymous symbol for the entire house, household, or family. The cluster of metaphors house, building (I Corinthians 3:9-17), field, temple, tree and branches (John 15:4-6), body and head (I Corinthians 12:12), living stones (I Peter 2:5) all converge on the principle that there is no such thing as a freelance Christian. You are either a living stone in a spiritual building, an organ in a spiritual body, or a branch on a spiritual tree. As long as we stay attached and continue to grow we are useful; as we become unattached we are discarded. As part of Christ's body or household, we have a responsibility to stay attached to the spiritual organism and to respond to the head.
In this sermon on the admonitions of I Corinthians 10, John Ritenbaugh warns that, like our forebears, we can lose our salvation if we live a life of divided loyalty even though we have mechanically and physically gone through the ordinances. Like the Old Testament examples, the Corinthians also developed a careless presumption (having its roots in pride), allowing themselves to be drawn to lust, fornicate, tempt God, and murmur. We need to soberly reflect on these examples, finding parallels in our own lives.
Through Acts 1-15, God (primarily through the work of Peter, Paul and James) has removed His work out of the Judaistic mold, creating the Israel of God (the church) designed to spread to the Gentiles. Though certain ceremonial and civil aspects of the law were (for a time) suspended, the Law of God was never suspended, especially as it relates to defilement of conscience or disregarding of scruples that could cause permanent spiritual damage or unwittingly place one in communion with demons. We must always conduct ourselves with the long —term spiritual interests of others paramount on our minds, being sensitive to conscience and scruples of others as we exercise our 'rights.'
After explaining the context in which Paul advocated going from house to house, John Ritenbaugh reiterates that Paul, who understands clearly that God alone calls (John 6:44), makes his initial contact with non-believers in public places (synagogue and forum), going later to private dwellings by invitation only. Chapter 15 focuses upon the Council of Jerusalem, discussing the controversial subject of circumcision and its relationship to salvation. Peter, speaking from his experience working among the Gentiles, realized that some aspects of the ceremonial laws (including circumcision) were not obligatory to Gentiles for salvation, but that the entire Law of God (given by Jesus Christ), far from done away, is to be kept in a more responsible spiritual sense (respecting the boundaries or constraints of conscience) by both Jews and Gentiles. It had become apparent to the apostles gathered at Jerusalem that God had made a parallel visitation and calling to the Gentiles as He had originally concluded with Israel. The new spiritual tabernacle (the Israel of God) would be composed of Gentiles as well as people of Israel.
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